Monday, November 28, 2011

Yo Ho Ho and a Bottle of Beer

A few years ago, Coca-Cola introduced a vanilla-flavoured Coke, and it was delicious. And when I drank it, I was reminded of rum. Drinking this soda was like drinking a Rum & Coke, without the alcohol. I was really disappointed when they discontinued it in Canada.

Whether Coca-Cola knew that this soft drink had hints of a hard drink, I may never know. But it was brilliant, whether intended or not. I love the flavour of rum.

Which brings me to this week's beer review.
Innis & Gunn
Rum Cask Oak Aged Beer
Edinburgh, Scotland
LCBO: $3.30/330mL
7.4% alc/vol
I have tried the traditional Innis & Gunn ale, which is aged in whisky barrels, offers delicious toffee and herb flavours. The Rum Cask version is equally delicious, but offers different flavours.

The colour is distinct from the original ale: the Rum Cask version shows a burnt reddish-caramel colour. On the nose, I first thought that the bottle was off. The aroma was strong and a little skunky. But it quickly opened up with oak, then figs and dates. This is a great beer for a winters day (whenever we get one, that is).

On the palate, I was immediately hit with vanilla, and that's what got me thinking of—you guessed it—Vanilla Coke. This ale has a slight sweetness that brought me back to almost a decade ago, when I fell in love with Coca-Cola again. Backing up the vanilla were flavours of clove and cinnamon. Though the finish was short, it was pleasant, making me want to follow my mouthful with another sip.

But let me be clear. This is not a sweet beer. There is no cloying quality to it. The sweetness is only perceived through the mixture of the rum and vanilla flavours. If you expect a sweet beer, you will be disappointed.

And believe me, this beer does not disappoint.

The brilliance of Innis & Gunn is their oak-aged ales, mixing with flavours of whatever liquor the barrel held before it was used for beer. This technique gives the beer a warmth that works well.

Despite the high alcohol level, it does not carry through to the overall flavour of the beer. Not much. That is, the alcohol does not detract; rather, it mixes with the oak, the spices, and the vanilla to make a beer that is quite enjoyable.

So give it a try. Especially, if you miss Vanilla Coke.

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